The George Cross was instituted by a Royal Warrant dated 24 September 1940. It is the highest civil decoration of the United Kingdom and is only awarded "for acts of the greatest heroism or of the most conspicuous courage in circumstances of extreme danger".
King George VI felt the need to formally recognise individual acts of outstanding bravery by the civilian population during the Blitz - Nazi Germany's bombing campaign against British cities. He decided to created an award for the men and women of the Commonwealth whose courage could not be marked by any other honour.
The silver cross, bearing an image of St George slaying the dragon and the words "FOR GALLANTRY", was designed by Percy Metcalfe and is struck at the Royal Mint. The reverse is plain and bears the name of the recipient and the date of the award.
The George Cross has been awarded directly to 155 people, 84 posthumously, and was bestowed on over 100 recipients during the Second World War.